The last month has been much busier than I anticipated! However, I do still make time to experiment in the kitchen, even on weeknights. Recently, I had a hankering for something different. Although I was tempted by a local fresh pasta shop (which has excellent pre-made meals), I wanted to save a few dollars, and so instead decided to make something at home.
I felt Italian, perhaps chicken with balsamic vinegar. However, there was also a jar of fig jam lurking in the depths of the fridge, begging to be used. Balsamic Fig chicken? Why not!
Thomas Mertens, Still Life with Wan-Li Dish, Fruit, and Bread, late 1660s. Oil on canvas (relined). 35 x 50 cm. Sold at Lempertz auction in Cologne in 2017.
Figs have long been considered a symbol of fertility, and eroticism. In the Renaissance, figs could refer to a woman’s genitals in art and bawdy poems. “Giving the fig” was a euphemism for an obscene gesture first found in Dante (see John Varriano’s fascinating article for more on fruits and vegetables as sexual metaphors). Figs were often included with other fruits in still life paintings from the seventeenth century onward. In general, the fruit was considered to be an allegory for the transient nature of life. Just as a sweet fig is perishable and ephemeral, so too is man’s existence.
For my supper, though, I kept things simple. The sweetness of the fig paired nicely with the tang of the balsamic vinegar, providing a sort of sweet-sour note for the meaty chicken thighs. Thyme was my herb of choice, but rosemary might work as well. I served my chicken with French-cut green beans and a side of penne alla vodka. The sauce will sweeten as it cooks, so I did not find that it needed any honey or sweetener beyond the fig jam.
Balsamic Fig Chicken
4 Chicken Thighs (bone-in and skin on)
1 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
4 tbsp fig jam
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar (standard balsamic vinegar works well—save the aged stuff for strawberries or salad!)
1 sprig thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken thighs, skin side down. Brown chicken thighs, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set aside.
2. Sauté garlic and season with a pinch of salt, about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Deglaze pan with chicken stock, then add in fig jam, balsamic vinegar and sprig of thyme. Return chicken to pan, skin side up.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer with lid on, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear (about 30-40 minutes). If sauce becomes too thick, thin out with a bit of water as needed. Remove thyme sprig and discard.
4. Serve chicken with chopped parsley or thyme, if desired. This would be excellent with smashed potatoes, or buttered pasta.